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Journalist Carole Cadwalladr appeals for support battling SLAPP lawsuit

Carole Cadwalladr
Carole Cadwalladr Photo: Ted Talks.

British co-founder of the Leave.EU campaign Arron Banks is refusing to drop the final two SLAPP lawsuits against journalist Carole Cadwalladr who now started a crowdfunding campaign to cover the massive legal costs.

Eight international freedom of expression organisations had called on Banks last December to drop all the SLAPP lawsuits against the Pulitzer Prize nominee Cadwalladr, claiming his argument to be “far-fetched and divorced from the specific context in which those words were used”.

“We are alarmed by the increasing use of SLAPP lawsuits as a means of attempting to silence public interest reporting – a trend that is posing a growing threat to freedom of expression internationally,” they said in their joint statement.

Describing Cadwalladr’s work as courageous investigative journalism, they expressed concern that Banks targeted Cadwalladr as an individual.

The journalist was investigating the funding of Banks’ Leave.EU campaign and had questioned his ties to Russia. “We know that the Russian government offered money to Arron Banks,” she had said during a talk in June last year with Bank’s lawyers, saying this meant there were strong grounds to believe he would assist the interests of the Russian government.

Cadwalladr’s lawyers had argued there were reasonable grounds to look into the matter and, in a preliminary ruling in December, the judge concluded that that there were “substantial grounds to investigate”, referring to investigating if Banks would be willing to accept such funds.

The British journalist spoke of the use of financially-crippling SLAPP lawsuits being used to silence journalists and expressed her support for The Shift’s fight against similar threats faced by Henley and Partners, the concessionaire for Malta’s cash for passport scheme, and a Russian banker.

Banks has since dropped two of his claims but is persisting with two others, Cadwalladr says on her fundraising page which was launched earlier this week. In just few hours, over €26,000 was raised to help her cover the legal fees to take on the battle.

“This case is a very worrying example of a wealthy person singling out an individual journalist and using the law to stifle legitimate debate and silence public interest journalism,” said The Guardian’s editor-in-chief, Katharine Viner, and The Observer editor, Paul Webster.

In a thread on Twitter, Cadwalladr said she considered herself very lucky to have support and that she worries “deeply about other journalists – especially freelancers – who do not have this option”. She adds that the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta exposed the problem.

She also thanked Reporters Without Borders, Index on Censorship and PEN International for their support, as well as other news organisations “fighting these cases every day but often happening behind closed doors”. The Shift has expressed solidarity with Cadwalladr in her fight against the intimidation of the press in order to silence them.

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